Enter Madison, best friend extraordinaire…
Madison used her key when her best friend didn’t answer the front door. It wasn’t like Emily to miss a coffee date and her car was still in the driveway so Maddie knew something had to have happened. She walked through the empty house and out the open French doors at the back, her heart skipping a beat when she spotted her friend crumpled on the grass with her head resting on the outdoor beanbag. She rushed to her, instantly noticing that Emily has been crying. A lot.
“Oh my god, honey, what’s wrong?” Maddie asked as she pulled her up to a sitting position and wrapped her arms around her. When the tears started again she started to really worry. Things had not been this bad since Emily had showed up on her doorstep with all of her belongings around a year ago. She wondered if the tears had anything to do with the anniversary looming. She reached into her handbag to retrieve some tissues and handed them to Emily, who thanked her with a sniffle.
“Come back inside, honey, I’ll make us a cuppa, yeah?” Maddie said as her friend wiped off her tears.
Maddie stood up, giving Emily a great big hug before they headed into the house. She noticed her friend hugging herself with a sigh when she glanced at the laptop on the coffee table before following Maddie into the kitchen. Maddie busied herself making a cuppa for the both of them, and took them to the table, sensing it would better if she kept Emily away from the couch and the laptop on the coffee table.
“What happened?” Maddie asked softly, wary that it might not take much for her friend to start crying again.
“I opened the emails.”
“Oh.” Maddie wasn’t sure what to say. She’d known about the emails since the first one had arrived a year ago; she’d urged Emily to read it and make contact, because it seemed mad to break up over an event in someone else’s life. But no, her friend had stuck to her decision to cut her boyfriend of four years completely out of her life without giving him a chance to have a say.
“I started with the one he sent last week, after he showed up here.”
“He what?” Maddie was taken aback. “How? Last week? But…”
“The night of the book launch. He was there. With her. I kinda hid behind a plant then sneaked out but he followed me home.”
“Oh my God! Did you talk to him? What did he say?” Maddie couldn’t believe her best friend had been sitting on this new development for a whole week and hadn’t said a word to her. Maybe because she hadn’t wanted Maddie to say ‘I told you so’…
“I tried… I wanted to. But I just couldn’t. I just… Fuck! I was so sure I was over him but then he walked in my kitchen and all I could think of was how much I wanted to climb him like a tree. He looked so sad and tired and so fucking good in that suit it made my heart hurt.”
“Then I had the brilliant idea to ask him for a hug before he left. Haven’t stopped thinking about him since. Today is a year since…” Emily sighed. “I felt it was time to open the folder.” She looked up, her eyes shiny with tears, so Maddie grabbed her hands in hers for support. “Oh my god Maddie, I’ve been such a horrible horrible asshole!”
Maddie felt her heart break for her friend, who was bawling once more, her head in her arms on the table.
“I’m sure it’s not that bad,” Maddie said, not believing a word she was saying. It was that bad. How could it be anything but bad, cutting someone completely out of your life after four years together because you disagree with something they say. It wasn’t as if Richie been beating her up, or been emotionally abusive, or lying or cheating or any of those horrid traits of characters some people have. Maddie knew that for a fact because they’d spend a lot of time together back then, she’d even been the one he’d asked to come help him find the perfect ring for the proposal he’d been planning. She knew he didn’t have a mean bone in his body and that Emily leaving like that had left him heartbroken. He’d reached out to her looking for Emily but, though Maddie had accepted to meet up with him to talk, she had stayed true to her best friend and not told Richie where to find her. They’d met at a cafe down the road from the preschool where she worked and she’d barely recognised him. Gone was the happy cheeky man she’d come to know, replaced by an empty shell with a broken heart. She’d gone home from the meeting and yelled at Emily to do something. But Emily had stood strong in her belief she was doing the right thing, only breaking down later that night and explaining about her parents. Her horrible pathetic parents.
Maddie was shaken out of her memories when Emily stood up suddenly and left the table. She came back a minute later with the laptop and put it down in front of Maddie, who looked up at her questioningly.
“Here you go. I bet you won’t want to be my friend after this,” Emily said, her voice flat as she sat back down.
“I’ve been your friend since we were ten, you really think a few emails are going to stop me from being your friend?” Maddie felt wrong reading the emails, it felt too personal, too intimate, but she could feel Emily’s eyes on her so she clicked on the first one he’d sent and started reading.
The pain in the first few emails was so raw it made her cry. She grabbed a tissue from the pack on the table and kept on, while Emily was sitting there, staring at the table. When she got to the latest email, the one he’d sent after following Emily home, Maddie looked up at her friend of twenty one years and for a second felt as if she was looking at a stranger. She shook it off and got out of her chair to give her friend a hug. She had the powerful urge to hug the other party in the disaster but that would have to wait.
She sat back down and took a sip of hot tea; she’d lost count which number cup she was now drinking, Emily having refilled her mug every time it was empty.
“So…” she started and waited for Emily to look up before she continued. “What are you going to do now? And by that I mean, I hope you have got your grovelling shoes on because you’re gonna need them.”
Emily looked at her in shock. “What?”
“Well, honey, it’s very clear to me that he is still in love with you, poor soul, and given your reaction to him and to the emails, I’d say you feel the same. Don’t you think it’s time you put your big girl panties on and talked to the man? He deserves to know about your parents, since they’re the insane reason you picked for breaking up with him.”
“I can’t… I… he… I mean… It’s too late.”
“BULLSHIT.” Maddie’s frustration boiled over and she raised her voice, even though she’d promised herself she wouldn’t. She took a deep calming breath. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to yell. I don’t think it’s too late. And you know what? Even if it turns out that it is too late, don’t you think you owe him an explanation?”
“Shut up. I hate it when you’re right.”
“Tough. You’ve gotten away with this for way too long. I should have dragged you to talk to him a year ago instead of letting you hide. You completely destroyed that poor man. I barely recognised him when I saw him.”
“What do you mean? When did you see him? He looked fine last week. Actually he looked way more than fine.”
“I mean last year, after you ran off like a fucking coward.”
“You saw him? You never said…And you promised!”
“Well no, you made me promise to never mention him again. I never mentioned him to you. I always keep my promises.”